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The Expendables (2010, Sylvester Stallone)

The Expendables is surprisingly good. I’m not sure Stallone would admit it, but it owes more to Soderbergh’s Ocean’s series than it does any of Stallone’s popular action movies. Apparently, following Rocky Balboa and Rambo, Stallone decided to direct actors, something I’m not sure he’s ever done before. But he gets some shockingly good performances here.

The most obvious is Mickey Rourke, whose role has an extended cameo size to it, but gives Rourke this amazing monologue. The writing has its weak points during, but Rourke’s delivery creates this transcendent moment. As with most good Rourke performances, large or small, it alone makes The Expendables worthwhile.

But then Stallone gives Dolph Lundgren the meatiest role he’s ever had–a junkie mercenary–and Lundgren nails it. It’s simply a great performance. While he’s on screen, it’s just astounding to see this slow-moving Swedish hulk deliver such a textured performance.

Lots of other good performances–Eric Roberts, Terry Crews, that Gary Daniels guy who’s never had a theatrical release is a great villain, and Randy Couture, who wrestles or something… he’s fine.

Jason Statham is solid (he and Stallone are good together when the movie’s in its buddy movie stage) and Jet Li has some amusing moments.

Only Steve Austin gives a completely worthless performance, but it’s passable as he’s usually silent.

Oh… Schwarzenegger. This performance might be his worst, which is quite a statement.

Technically, the film’s a tad under-budgeted for Stallone’s ambitions, but, in the end, it works.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Sylvester Stallone; screenplay by Dave Callaham and Stallone, based on a story by Callaham; director of photography, Jeffrey L. Kimball; edited by Ken Blackwell and Paul Harb; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Franco-Giacomo Carbone; produced by Avi Lerner, John Thompson and Kevin King Templeton; released by Lionsgate.

Starring Sylvester Stallone (Barney Ross), Jason Statham (Lee Christmas), Jet Li (Yin Yang), Dolph Lundgren (Gunner Jensen), Eric Roberts (James Munroe), Randy Couture (Toll Road), Steve Austin (Paine), David Zayas (General Garza), Giselle Itié (Sandra), Charisma Carpenter (Lacy), Gary Daniels (the Brit), Terry Crews (Hale Caesar) and Mickey Rourke (Tool).


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